KANDAHAR PROVINCE, AFGHANISTAN
FORWARD OPERATING BASE WALTON, Afghanistan - When a soldier is deployed, going to the dentist is often one of the last things on their mind. They know where to go if they’re not feeling well, they know where to go if they want to use a phone or a computer, and they know where to go if they want to see a chaplain.
“Until someone has a toothache, they don’t think about the dentist,” said Sgt. Larry Davie, the dental assistant and hygienist for Charlie Company, 501st Brigade Support Battalion, 1st Brigade, 1st Armored Division, deployed to Forward Operating Base Walton in Kandahar Province, Afghanistan, and a native of Fort Belvoir, Va. “It’s not one of the places of choice for people to go to- until something goes wrong.”
“I assist the brigade dentist in doing procedures,” said Davie. “We do surgery, pulpectomies- which is the first part of a root canal-, we also do cleanings and fillings.”
Davie, who treats up to 10 patients a day, is undoubtedly passionate about what he does.
“I make people smile when they leave here,” said Davie. “Most people come in not smiling. I’m a smiley person, so I expect people to smile back. I know my job involves the teeth, the most precious part of the body that people see mostly on a daily basis, so my job is to make people smile.”
Davie admits that he did not always think dental hygiene was important. He has had his share of fillings and knows how it feels to have needles piercing his gums. However, he is adamant that tooth care is essential for a person’s health.
“People fail to realize that their gums are connected to the rest of their body,” said Davie. “With periodontal disease, which is a gum disease, you have a higher chance of liver cancer, pancreas cancer and Alzheimer’s disease.”
Fortunately, there is an easy fix to avoid these diseases: brush and floss your teeth.
“We give out toothbrushes, toothpaste and floss,” said Davie. “Even if a soldier is on a convoy, they’re able to floss their teeth while they’re in the vehicle.”
For quick fixes if a soldier forgets their toothbrush, Davie recommends using water and a rag. He also suggests watching what foods a person eats.
“Celery is a good food to eat because it massages your gums when you chew it and it acts as a floss when you bite into it.,” said Davie.
While Davie stays busy with patients most days, he would like to see more. Everything they do is free for the soldiers, said Davie, as he encourages them to come back as often as possible.
“My mission is to take care of those who are helping to take care of us,” said Davie. “I love my job, but I want you to be able to do your job.”
||KANDAHAR PROVINCE, AF
||FORT BELVOIR, VA, US
||HOMEWOOD, AL, US
This work, Smiles for soldiers, by SSG Kristen Duus, identified by DVIDS, is free of known copyright restrictions under U.S. copyright law.